The Distraction Factor

137_3777 Sooner or later, We Who Write Books (or we who do anything creative, demanding and tied to a deadline!) must come to that inevitable place, the Deadline Tunnel, as it's termed in my house. And I'm there, with helmet and flashlight, backpack and snacks, an extra pair of socks and a notebook. It's also known in my house as the Hobbit hole – a place where I can be left aloooooone for the duration, with not enough sleep, not much attention paid to food, clothing, housework or the needs of the bewildered family. For the next several weeks, the only thing that matters is Book, Book, Book.

BUT — with lots left to do and barely enough hours left in day or night to race that deadline clock, or get to the light at the end of that tunnel … I am still finding lots of OTHER things to do first.

Christine de pisan Reading Pat's post the other day, a discussion of blogs, websites, Twitter and other forms of Major Web Distraction, made me think about how much my writing process has been altered by the Web. Several years ago, as long as my sons were all accounted for – at school, doing homework, playing video games or sleeping (thankfully for at-home mom writers, teenage boys sleep a LOT) — I could turn off the phone, shut myself up in my office or the spare bedroom (where the chair is very comfy for laptop use), and zero in on the work to be done. Total immersion in the book. It's a great place, and a tortuous place at times, to be. And it's essential to the process.

But that was before the Web and e-mail transformed life as I knew it. And that's what Pat's post the other day brought into sharp relief. I realize I'm more distractible than I used to be, even with the sons mostly out of the house (one to go and two still visiting frequently! *g*)– and even when the calendar says I must delve deep in that book and stay there, that internet icon on my desktop beckons like a Siren…

I just need to check my e-mail once more, waiting for a response from agent/editor/friend in need/son/etc. ….okay, done–but what's that headline? OMG, she wore THAT and got caught by the paparazzi?? Oops, forgot to check my other e-mail addresses…and back to work — dang! I'd better check that all-important factoid on the Web … oh look, I could make that recipe for dinner *if I ever get out of this house to go to the grocery store again* … back to work … …. yeah, that scene just isn't ready yet — gotta think about that emotional motivation … oh man, I forgot to check www.dailypuppy.com today!!  Time for another cup of tea, and while the water's boiling, I'll sit down with the laptop in the kitchen – it's still on … right, I'll reply to that note later, but — the kettle is still not boiling yet, and my friend sent me another link to the videos at www.cutethingsfallingasleep.com … awwww!!! … send that out … okay, BACK to work…

…Now it's time for more tea, a little chocolate, and oh yeah I do need to find that bit of Irish verse in its earliest translation. The transcribed Gaelic would be good too … yup, there it is, so that's the right word, now to get back to that chapter… what, it's going to rain tomorrow?!  That's okay, I will be inside all day writing, writing… what's this new YouTube video - oh that's a HOOT!  …

And that's WITHOUT hours on Facebook or Twitter, blogs and a million other possibilities for time-sinking, er, spending. So far I've been good about keeping extra web activities to a bare minimum, because I've resisted the social sites … but the Internet is a time-sink of mythic proportions, no matter what form the addiction takes.

Glasses I'm not particularly ADD by nature. When I need to focus, I can — or used to be able to do that without a problem. Yet I am a curious and thinking sort, and that creates its own distractibility. Still, when I have to work, I do it — nonstop for hours, days, weeks when necessary. No question, though, it was a helluva lot easier before the Web. To some extent, with all these bytes and bits and fascinating facts, all the enormous incredible accessibility of everything on the Web, my brain has become entrained to a more fragmented concentration…. and I have to work harder to claim it back. I have be stern with myself, and that's hard to do, as I'd rather stretch a line than toe it.

So if I start Twittering, or get lost in the maze of Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever, what then for the trusty deadline tunnel? Isolation and focus is necessary to finish a manuscript, which means reverting to a non-techie existence (except for computer-as-word-processor and internet-as-research-library). 

Really, it's a relief to isolate for the book and cut myself off from virtual and techie supply. The web-savvy world can be delightful but demanding, offering way too much for quick disposal and way too much vying for our attention. The things that need and deserve quality attention are not always getting enough nurturing focus. 

I don't mean my kids, husband or the housework — yeah, I can ignore them guilt-free for the short term, they know I'll come back. I mean the BOOK. The next book won't exist in its best form unless I can concentrate and give it all I've got. And when I splinter available creative focus by sauntering over to the Web with its myriad temptations, it takes time and energy that belongs to my writing.

But sometimes I can't help myself, my curiosity and the need for a little brain down-time overrules.

All you Twitterers and Facebookers, Bloggers and Readers, Compulsive Checkers of E-Mail and DailyPuppy.com — have you noticed a change in your ability to focus? Do you put off important things to do less important -but more immediate- things on the Web? 

And here's another question – in what ways is the major web distraction HELPING you? Argue for following the temptation of it. If I can rationalize my web-wandering, that would be Good.

Lady Macbeth paperback cover Allow me to offer one more distraction: the trade paperback of LADY MACBETH will be released SOON — April 7!!! — and the first two chapters of the next book (QUEEN HEREAFTER) are in the back of the book, along with Reader's Guide questions and a gorgeous new look! It's available for pre-order at Amazon now. See the link to the right side of the page!

Happy Web-wandering and of course happy reading to all,

Susan Sarah

30 thoughts on “The Distraction Factor”

  1. Last year I made a pledge to myself to cut down web time, and by and large, I have. That means I might read blogs, but don’t comment. I have Facebook and MySpace, but don’t visit. I delete e-mail w/o reading. The loops I subscribe to are in digest form. I blog less, about once a week, because really, what on earth do I have to say, LOL. I give myself a wake-up/warm-up in the morning as I eat breakfast, read my online newspapers, mail and favorite blogs first thing, and then I write. I confess I went haywire during the election and am now hooked on political sites that I didn’t even know existed before. (They are my guilty daily pleasure—no puppies for me.) But you can’t beat the web for insta-research and inspiring visuals on Google Image Search/YouTube. But, yeah, I spend way too much time online.

    Reply
  2. Last year I made a pledge to myself to cut down web time, and by and large, I have. That means I might read blogs, but don’t comment. I have Facebook and MySpace, but don’t visit. I delete e-mail w/o reading. The loops I subscribe to are in digest form. I blog less, about once a week, because really, what on earth do I have to say, LOL. I give myself a wake-up/warm-up in the morning as I eat breakfast, read my online newspapers, mail and favorite blogs first thing, and then I write. I confess I went haywire during the election and am now hooked on political sites that I didn’t even know existed before. (They are my guilty daily pleasure—no puppies for me.) But you can’t beat the web for insta-research and inspiring visuals on Google Image Search/YouTube. But, yeah, I spend way too much time online.

    Reply
  3. Last year I made a pledge to myself to cut down web time, and by and large, I have. That means I might read blogs, but don’t comment. I have Facebook and MySpace, but don’t visit. I delete e-mail w/o reading. The loops I subscribe to are in digest form. I blog less, about once a week, because really, what on earth do I have to say, LOL. I give myself a wake-up/warm-up in the morning as I eat breakfast, read my online newspapers, mail and favorite blogs first thing, and then I write. I confess I went haywire during the election and am now hooked on political sites that I didn’t even know existed before. (They are my guilty daily pleasure—no puppies for me.) But you can’t beat the web for insta-research and inspiring visuals on Google Image Search/YouTube. But, yeah, I spend way too much time online.

    Reply
  4. Last year I made a pledge to myself to cut down web time, and by and large, I have. That means I might read blogs, but don’t comment. I have Facebook and MySpace, but don’t visit. I delete e-mail w/o reading. The loops I subscribe to are in digest form. I blog less, about once a week, because really, what on earth do I have to say, LOL. I give myself a wake-up/warm-up in the morning as I eat breakfast, read my online newspapers, mail and favorite blogs first thing, and then I write. I confess I went haywire during the election and am now hooked on political sites that I didn’t even know existed before. (They are my guilty daily pleasure—no puppies for me.) But you can’t beat the web for insta-research and inspiring visuals on Google Image Search/YouTube. But, yeah, I spend way too much time online.

    Reply
  5. Last year I made a pledge to myself to cut down web time, and by and large, I have. That means I might read blogs, but don’t comment. I have Facebook and MySpace, but don’t visit. I delete e-mail w/o reading. The loops I subscribe to are in digest form. I blog less, about once a week, because really, what on earth do I have to say, LOL. I give myself a wake-up/warm-up in the morning as I eat breakfast, read my online newspapers, mail and favorite blogs first thing, and then I write. I confess I went haywire during the election and am now hooked on political sites that I didn’t even know existed before. (They are my guilty daily pleasure—no puppies for me.) But you can’t beat the web for insta-research and inspiring visuals on Google Image Search/YouTube. But, yeah, I spend way too much time online.

    Reply
  6. It ain’t easy! I can’t do the Deadline Tunnel. My brain wears out after six hours of total immersion. And really, I’m not good at immersion. I may be moving toward ADD in old age. Is that possible? My only way of surviving the distraction is tight scheduling, with a little fiddle room on one email account, the one only VIP can access. “G” It takes me weeks to fit MySpace and my small blog into my schedule. Twitter still frightens me!

    Reply
  7. It ain’t easy! I can’t do the Deadline Tunnel. My brain wears out after six hours of total immersion. And really, I’m not good at immersion. I may be moving toward ADD in old age. Is that possible? My only way of surviving the distraction is tight scheduling, with a little fiddle room on one email account, the one only VIP can access. “G” It takes me weeks to fit MySpace and my small blog into my schedule. Twitter still frightens me!

    Reply
  8. It ain’t easy! I can’t do the Deadline Tunnel. My brain wears out after six hours of total immersion. And really, I’m not good at immersion. I may be moving toward ADD in old age. Is that possible? My only way of surviving the distraction is tight scheduling, with a little fiddle room on one email account, the one only VIP can access. “G” It takes me weeks to fit MySpace and my small blog into my schedule. Twitter still frightens me!

    Reply
  9. It ain’t easy! I can’t do the Deadline Tunnel. My brain wears out after six hours of total immersion. And really, I’m not good at immersion. I may be moving toward ADD in old age. Is that possible? My only way of surviving the distraction is tight scheduling, with a little fiddle room on one email account, the one only VIP can access. “G” It takes me weeks to fit MySpace and my small blog into my schedule. Twitter still frightens me!

    Reply
  10. It ain’t easy! I can’t do the Deadline Tunnel. My brain wears out after six hours of total immersion. And really, I’m not good at immersion. I may be moving toward ADD in old age. Is that possible? My only way of surviving the distraction is tight scheduling, with a little fiddle room on one email account, the one only VIP can access. “G” It takes me weeks to fit MySpace and my small blog into my schedule. Twitter still frightens me!

    Reply
  11. Oh, Susan, you are SO RIGHT! The internet is the invention of the devil. I stuck with my old, non-internet computer for years because I just knew the world wide web would be bad for me–and I was write. I wrote faster, and longer books, in pre-internet days, and I don’t think that my concentration has deteriorated merely with age.
    We need a 12 step program for web addicts. 🙂 Like you, I avoid the social networking sites like the plague, and I wouldn’t even know where to find games on my computer.
    But e-mail, oh, my. And the compulsion to research that interesting info-bit RIGHT NOW rather than putting in XXX and getting to it later.
    And the sad thing is that, like with most addictions, I don’t really want to be cured. Sigh.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  12. Oh, Susan, you are SO RIGHT! The internet is the invention of the devil. I stuck with my old, non-internet computer for years because I just knew the world wide web would be bad for me–and I was write. I wrote faster, and longer books, in pre-internet days, and I don’t think that my concentration has deteriorated merely with age.
    We need a 12 step program for web addicts. 🙂 Like you, I avoid the social networking sites like the plague, and I wouldn’t even know where to find games on my computer.
    But e-mail, oh, my. And the compulsion to research that interesting info-bit RIGHT NOW rather than putting in XXX and getting to it later.
    And the sad thing is that, like with most addictions, I don’t really want to be cured. Sigh.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  13. Oh, Susan, you are SO RIGHT! The internet is the invention of the devil. I stuck with my old, non-internet computer for years because I just knew the world wide web would be bad for me–and I was write. I wrote faster, and longer books, in pre-internet days, and I don’t think that my concentration has deteriorated merely with age.
    We need a 12 step program for web addicts. 🙂 Like you, I avoid the social networking sites like the plague, and I wouldn’t even know where to find games on my computer.
    But e-mail, oh, my. And the compulsion to research that interesting info-bit RIGHT NOW rather than putting in XXX and getting to it later.
    And the sad thing is that, like with most addictions, I don’t really want to be cured. Sigh.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  14. Oh, Susan, you are SO RIGHT! The internet is the invention of the devil. I stuck with my old, non-internet computer for years because I just knew the world wide web would be bad for me–and I was write. I wrote faster, and longer books, in pre-internet days, and I don’t think that my concentration has deteriorated merely with age.
    We need a 12 step program for web addicts. 🙂 Like you, I avoid the social networking sites like the plague, and I wouldn’t even know where to find games on my computer.
    But e-mail, oh, my. And the compulsion to research that interesting info-bit RIGHT NOW rather than putting in XXX and getting to it later.
    And the sad thing is that, like with most addictions, I don’t really want to be cured. Sigh.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  15. Oh, Susan, you are SO RIGHT! The internet is the invention of the devil. I stuck with my old, non-internet computer for years because I just knew the world wide web would be bad for me–and I was write. I wrote faster, and longer books, in pre-internet days, and I don’t think that my concentration has deteriorated merely with age.
    We need a 12 step program for web addicts. 🙂 Like you, I avoid the social networking sites like the plague, and I wouldn’t even know where to find games on my computer.
    But e-mail, oh, my. And the compulsion to research that interesting info-bit RIGHT NOW rather than putting in XXX and getting to it later.
    And the sad thing is that, like with most addictions, I don’t really want to be cured. Sigh.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  16. I try to justify my time on the computer by assuring myself that I’m over the age of 50 and I’ve earned certain freedoms with my time. However, that little voice in my mind pokes and prods me relentlessly about the stack of schoolwork and correcting which is even now sitting on the kitchen table NOT GETTING FINISHED. lol
    I’m not part of the social network scene and I try to be reasonable about my time on the computer because it is a vacuum. Most of my time is spent reading about books and I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to 3 or 4 sites which I check regularly for book suggestions. A bigger problem I’ve run into is the increasing size of my to-be-read pile!

    Reply
  17. I try to justify my time on the computer by assuring myself that I’m over the age of 50 and I’ve earned certain freedoms with my time. However, that little voice in my mind pokes and prods me relentlessly about the stack of schoolwork and correcting which is even now sitting on the kitchen table NOT GETTING FINISHED. lol
    I’m not part of the social network scene and I try to be reasonable about my time on the computer because it is a vacuum. Most of my time is spent reading about books and I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to 3 or 4 sites which I check regularly for book suggestions. A bigger problem I’ve run into is the increasing size of my to-be-read pile!

    Reply
  18. I try to justify my time on the computer by assuring myself that I’m over the age of 50 and I’ve earned certain freedoms with my time. However, that little voice in my mind pokes and prods me relentlessly about the stack of schoolwork and correcting which is even now sitting on the kitchen table NOT GETTING FINISHED. lol
    I’m not part of the social network scene and I try to be reasonable about my time on the computer because it is a vacuum. Most of my time is spent reading about books and I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to 3 or 4 sites which I check regularly for book suggestions. A bigger problem I’ve run into is the increasing size of my to-be-read pile!

    Reply
  19. I try to justify my time on the computer by assuring myself that I’m over the age of 50 and I’ve earned certain freedoms with my time. However, that little voice in my mind pokes and prods me relentlessly about the stack of schoolwork and correcting which is even now sitting on the kitchen table NOT GETTING FINISHED. lol
    I’m not part of the social network scene and I try to be reasonable about my time on the computer because it is a vacuum. Most of my time is spent reading about books and I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to 3 or 4 sites which I check regularly for book suggestions. A bigger problem I’ve run into is the increasing size of my to-be-read pile!

    Reply
  20. I try to justify my time on the computer by assuring myself that I’m over the age of 50 and I’ve earned certain freedoms with my time. However, that little voice in my mind pokes and prods me relentlessly about the stack of schoolwork and correcting which is even now sitting on the kitchen table NOT GETTING FINISHED. lol
    I’m not part of the social network scene and I try to be reasonable about my time on the computer because it is a vacuum. Most of my time is spent reading about books and I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to 3 or 4 sites which I check regularly for book suggestions. A bigger problem I’ve run into is the increasing size of my to-be-read pile!

    Reply
  21. Susan Sarah, there’s been a synchronous event. I just took my shower and I have an hour and a half or so before I have to be doing anything else. I had intended to finish my current book (Silent on the Moor – even though Brisbane is beginning to get on my nerve), and what did I do instead? I pulled up Twitter on my laptop, and then I checked this site for new stuff and saw your column.
    I would wager that 25 years ago I would have finished that book days ago, but the faux feeling of human contact that the internet gives has sucked me in. And, as you say, I am more easily distracted; dunno if it’s age or information overload. I’m going to shut it off now. Really.

    Reply
  22. Susan Sarah, there’s been a synchronous event. I just took my shower and I have an hour and a half or so before I have to be doing anything else. I had intended to finish my current book (Silent on the Moor – even though Brisbane is beginning to get on my nerve), and what did I do instead? I pulled up Twitter on my laptop, and then I checked this site for new stuff and saw your column.
    I would wager that 25 years ago I would have finished that book days ago, but the faux feeling of human contact that the internet gives has sucked me in. And, as you say, I am more easily distracted; dunno if it’s age or information overload. I’m going to shut it off now. Really.

    Reply
  23. Susan Sarah, there’s been a synchronous event. I just took my shower and I have an hour and a half or so before I have to be doing anything else. I had intended to finish my current book (Silent on the Moor – even though Brisbane is beginning to get on my nerve), and what did I do instead? I pulled up Twitter on my laptop, and then I checked this site for new stuff and saw your column.
    I would wager that 25 years ago I would have finished that book days ago, but the faux feeling of human contact that the internet gives has sucked me in. And, as you say, I am more easily distracted; dunno if it’s age or information overload. I’m going to shut it off now. Really.

    Reply
  24. Susan Sarah, there’s been a synchronous event. I just took my shower and I have an hour and a half or so before I have to be doing anything else. I had intended to finish my current book (Silent on the Moor – even though Brisbane is beginning to get on my nerve), and what did I do instead? I pulled up Twitter on my laptop, and then I checked this site for new stuff and saw your column.
    I would wager that 25 years ago I would have finished that book days ago, but the faux feeling of human contact that the internet gives has sucked me in. And, as you say, I am more easily distracted; dunno if it’s age or information overload. I’m going to shut it off now. Really.

    Reply
  25. Susan Sarah, there’s been a synchronous event. I just took my shower and I have an hour and a half or so before I have to be doing anything else. I had intended to finish my current book (Silent on the Moor – even though Brisbane is beginning to get on my nerve), and what did I do instead? I pulled up Twitter on my laptop, and then I checked this site for new stuff and saw your column.
    I would wager that 25 years ago I would have finished that book days ago, but the faux feeling of human contact that the internet gives has sucked me in. And, as you say, I am more easily distracted; dunno if it’s age or information overload. I’m going to shut it off now. Really.

    Reply
  26. Oh, Susan. I still remember how fascinating and marvelous e-mail was when I first got it 12 years ago! I checked it constantly to see if I’d gotten any new messages, and oh, how disappointed I was to see an empty inbox! What I wouldn’t give to have an empty inbox now!
    I used to pore over my encyclopedias, always glad to grab one at random and just read all the wonderful stuff in those books. Now, my encyclopedia is the Internet. I’ve been sucked into the vortex of following one link after another, because each site takes you to a new site with yet more links. I’m doomed.

    Reply
  27. Oh, Susan. I still remember how fascinating and marvelous e-mail was when I first got it 12 years ago! I checked it constantly to see if I’d gotten any new messages, and oh, how disappointed I was to see an empty inbox! What I wouldn’t give to have an empty inbox now!
    I used to pore over my encyclopedias, always glad to grab one at random and just read all the wonderful stuff in those books. Now, my encyclopedia is the Internet. I’ve been sucked into the vortex of following one link after another, because each site takes you to a new site with yet more links. I’m doomed.

    Reply
  28. Oh, Susan. I still remember how fascinating and marvelous e-mail was when I first got it 12 years ago! I checked it constantly to see if I’d gotten any new messages, and oh, how disappointed I was to see an empty inbox! What I wouldn’t give to have an empty inbox now!
    I used to pore over my encyclopedias, always glad to grab one at random and just read all the wonderful stuff in those books. Now, my encyclopedia is the Internet. I’ve been sucked into the vortex of following one link after another, because each site takes you to a new site with yet more links. I’m doomed.

    Reply
  29. Oh, Susan. I still remember how fascinating and marvelous e-mail was when I first got it 12 years ago! I checked it constantly to see if I’d gotten any new messages, and oh, how disappointed I was to see an empty inbox! What I wouldn’t give to have an empty inbox now!
    I used to pore over my encyclopedias, always glad to grab one at random and just read all the wonderful stuff in those books. Now, my encyclopedia is the Internet. I’ve been sucked into the vortex of following one link after another, because each site takes you to a new site with yet more links. I’m doomed.

    Reply
  30. Oh, Susan. I still remember how fascinating and marvelous e-mail was when I first got it 12 years ago! I checked it constantly to see if I’d gotten any new messages, and oh, how disappointed I was to see an empty inbox! What I wouldn’t give to have an empty inbox now!
    I used to pore over my encyclopedias, always glad to grab one at random and just read all the wonderful stuff in those books. Now, my encyclopedia is the Internet. I’ve been sucked into the vortex of following one link after another, because each site takes you to a new site with yet more links. I’m doomed.

    Reply

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